The Maturing Garden

Deep shade envelops a favorite spot to sit. Photo by Lise Jenkins.


By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins

Generally, from a gardening standpoint, I enjoy the month of January. Typically, I peruse the garden catalogues that arrive this time of year, daydreaming about the possibilities my garden might produce. However, reading the garden catalogues recently has not given me a great deal of enjoyment for the simple reason that my garden, like me, is maturing.

Now maturing is something we all do — not necessarily in behavior although I hold out hopes that I have learned something over the years. Maturing — which you will agree sounds a bit more graceful than “growing old” — has some advantages, such as reduced ticket prices at movie theaters and Thursday discounts at local supermarkets.

However, along with maturity come creaky bones, dubious memories and not-quite-as-sunny dispositions, which keep even the sturdiest among us wishing that this maturation process would slow down a bit.

So, too, do gardens change. For one thing, they become shadier and for another, there is less room for heavy springtime planting. Now, please don’t enumerate on the subtleties of the woodland garden. At my age I want flash. I want to make a statement. I don’t want to settle for subtle. Why else am I turning in my two-year-old silver Outback for a red model? I don’t want to be invisible.

I think back yearningly to the time where I could order anything I wanted, dependent on price, where I had room for a particular canna or hedychium. Plants that grew in the sun provided the flash I was after, but at the same time my trees, along with my neighbors’ trees, were growing.

The sun I had taken for granted seemingly disappeared. Crinums that were once in bright sun now lay in too much shade. Plants that were once compact now were getting leggy in an attempt to find some adequate sun.

All this occurred just as I was conquered with a sudden passion for sustainable roses. Subsequently, between lilies, daylilies and sustainable roses, every square inch of sun in the garden is occupied.

Consequently, all that seems to be left for me to consider in the garden catalogues constitute a rather boring collection of plants. Don’t get me wrong: Ferns are nice plants but whoever swooned over a fern?

You see, my ideal January is for daydreaming, marking up catalogues with yellow markers that indicate what plants I’d like to order — without considering price. January is the month I look out on the garden to observe lots of free space in the sun due to the absence of leaves on the trees and hibernating plants. January is the month when I’d like to assume that I have room for these enticing new plants.

Perhaps, I tell myself, this echinacea really will live up to its hype, perhaps the lantana really will act as though it’s a perennial in my garden, perhaps that dahlia will stand up to the summer heat and humidity. Instead of sugarplums — and what on earth are sugarplums exactly? — dancing in my head, I want to have visions of exotic Himalayan lilies or cardiocrinums prancing through this imaginary garden.

All this daydreaming is loads of fun, fun that I fear I’m missing this January, alas. It’s hard to give up this imaginary garden in my mind but the lack of sun and space demand that I do so. This is the downside of maturity, and it makes me quite cross.

However, if you see this grandmother sporting around in her red car, you will know that my lust for flash hasn’t entirely disappeared. Or perhaps, this is simply the inner child in me waiting to escape. 

Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email:

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1 Comment on "The Maturing Garden"

  1. I used to daydream about gardening in the depth of the long, cold Chicago winter. This transplanted Granny dreams no more but is enjoying ‘year round gardening here in the mild North Carolina seasons. After much planning I have finally achieved my goal of something in bloom for each month of the year which is not that difficult as we only have 2 months of winter. For the winter months of January/February the beautiful pink blossoms of Prunus mume ‘ peggy clarke ‘ ( ornamental Japanese apricot ) attracts bees ! I do love a woodland garden but try to enhance it with texture and color and for my “flash ” of color I sow lots of colorful wildflowers in my roadside garden that receives good sun. The Lantana has established itself there and is a cheery yellow from June until Frost ! I am struggling right now to grow azaleas/rhododendrons which are a real challenge in this hot climate.

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